Images de page


old physicians as well in pharmacy as in surgery boiled down to a summa for all affections, he will find it in Aëtius." Naturally enough, this exaggerated estimation was followed by a reaction, in which Aëtius came to be valued at much less than he deserved. After all is taken into account in the vicissitudes of his fame, it is clear, however, that he is one of the most important links in the chain of medical tradition, and himself worthy to be classed among makers of medicine for his personal observations and efforts to pass on the teachings of the old to succeeding generations.

[merged small][ocr errors]


An even more striking example than the life and work of Aëtius as evidence for the encouragement and patronage of medicine in early Christian times, is to be found in the career of Alexander of Tralles, whose writings have been the subject of most careful attention in the Renaissance period and in our own, and who must be considered one of the great independent thinkers in medicine. While it is usually assumed that whatever there was of medical writing during the Middle Ages was mere copying and compilation, here at least is a man who could not only judiciously select, but who could critically estimate the value of medical opinions and procedure, and weighing them by his own experience and observation, turn out work that was valuable for all succeeding generations. The modern German school of medical historians have agreed in declaring him an independent thinker and physician,


who represents a distinct link in medical tradition.

He came of a distinguished family, in which the following of medicine as a profession might be looked upon as hereditary. His father was a physician, and it is probable that there were physicians in preceding generations, and one of his brothers, Dioscoros, was also a successful physician. Altogether four of his brothers reached such distinction in their life work that their names have come down to us through nearly fifteen hundred years. The eldest of them was Anthemios, the builder of the great church of Santa Sophia in Constantinople. As this is one of the world's great churches, and still stands for the admiration of men a millennium and a half after its completion, it is easy to understand that Anthemios' reputation is well founded. A second brother was Metrodoros, a distinguished grammarian and teacher, especially of the youthful nobility of Byzantium, as it was then called, or Constantinople, as we have come to call it. A third brother was a prominent jurist, also in Constantinople. The fourth brother, Dioscoros, like Alexander, a physician, remained in his birthplace, Tralles, and acquired there a great practice.

It was with his father at Tralles that Alexander received his early medical training. The father of a friend and colleague, Cosmas, who later dedicated a book to Alexander, was also his teacher, while he was in his native city. As a young man, Alexander undertook extensive travels, which led him into Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Africa, everywhere gathering medical knowledge and medical experience. Then he settled down at Rome, probably in an official

position, and practised medicine successfully until a very old age. He was probably eighty years of age when, some time during the first decade of the seventh century, he died.

Pusehmann, who has made a special study of Alexander's life and work, suggests that since some of his books have the form of academie lectures he was probably a teacher of medicine at Rome. As might be expected from what we know of the relations of the rest of the family to the nobility of the time, it is easy to understand, especially in conneetion with hints in Alexander's favorite modes of therapeutics, that costliness of remedies made no difference to his patients, that he must have had the treatment of some of the wealthiest families in Rome.

His principal work is a Treatise on the Pathology and Therapeuties of Internal Diseases, in twelve books. The first eleven books were evidently material gathered for lectures or teaching of some kind. The twelfth book, in which considerable use of Aētius* writings is made, was written, according to Puschmann, toward the end of Alexander's life, and was meant to contain supplementary matter, comprising especially his views gathered from otservation as to the pathology of intermal diseases. A shorter treatise of Alexander is with regard to intestinal parasites. There are many printed editions of these books, and many manuscript copies are in existence. Alexander was often quoted diring the Middle Ages, and in recent years, with the ZTOwth of our knowledge of medical history, he has come to be a favorite subject of study.

Alexander's first book of pathology and therapeutics treats of head and brain diseases. For baldness, the first symptom of which is falling out of the hair, he counsels cutting the hair short, washing the scalp vigorously, and the rubbing in of sulphur ointments. For grey hair he suggests certain hair dyes, as nutgalls, red wine, and so forth. For dandruff, which he described as the excessive formation of small flake-like scales, he recommends rubbing with wine, with certain salves, and washing with salt water.

He gives a good deal of attention to diseases of the nervous system. He has a rather interesting chapter on headache. The affection occurs in connection with fevers, after excess in drinking, and as a consequence of injury to the skull. Besides, it develops as a result of disturbances of the natural processes in the head, the stomach, the liver, and the spleen. Headache, as the first symptom of inflammation of the brain, is often the forerunner of convulsions, delirium, and sudden death. Chronic or recurrent headache occurs in connection with plethora, diseases of the brain, biliousness, digestive disturbances, insomnia, and continued worry. Hemicrania has its origin in the brain, because of the presence of toxic materials, and specially their transformation into gaseous substances. It also occurs in connection with abdominal affections. This latter remark particularly is directed to the cases which occur in women.

For apoplexy and the consequent paralysis, Alexander considered venesection the best remedy. Massage, rubbings, baths, and warm applications are recommended for the paralytic conditions. He had evidently had considerable experience with epilepsy. It develops either from injuries of the head or from disturbances of the stomach, or occasionally other parts of the body. When it occurs in nursing infants, nourishment is the best remedy, and he gives detailed directions for the selection of a wet nurse, and very careful directions as to her mode of life. He emphasizes very much the necessity for careful attention to the gastro-intestinal tract in many cases of epilepsy. Planned diet and regular bowels are very helpful. He rejects treatment of the condition by surgery of the head, either by trephining or by incisions, or cauterization. Reg. ular exercise, baths, sexual abstinence are the foundation of any successful treatment. It is probable that we have returned to Alexander's treatment of epilepsy much more nearly than is generally thought. There are those who still think that remedies of various kinds do good, but in the large epileptic colonies regular exercise, bland diet, reg. ulation of the bowels, and avoidance of excesses of all kinds, with occupation of mind, constitute the mainstay of their treatment.

Alexander has much to say with regard to phrenitis, a febrile condition complicated by delirium, which, following Galen, he considers an affection of the brain. It is evidently the brain fever of the generations preceding the last, an important element of which was made up of the infectious meningitises. Alexander suggests its treatment by opiates after preliminary venesection, rubbings, lukewarm baths, and stimulating drinks. Every disturbance of the

« PrécédentContinuer »